Review: UAD AMS DMX 15-80 S Digital delay and Pitch Shifter

That’s a very long name for a piece of virtual equipment, and that’s even with a few abbreviations. Along with the classic Lexicon 224 which has been UAD-modelled for a few years now, this has always been on my list of most desired effects units.

The original piece of equipment this software was based on was one of the essential pieces of kit (and early digital kit at that) found in major studios from the late 70’s onwards. Made in England by Advanced Music Systems (AMS were later bought by Neve), ostensibly it was a 15-bit digital delay, but it did so much more than that. It was a sampler, and could do pitch changes, and also had an extra chorus module in some versions.

I remember being in a New Wave band in the early 80’s and recording at a major recording studio in Auckland, NZ. I also remember having to pay an extra $150 to use this beauty in our session. In our case it was to cut and paste audio (a long drum roll actually) between different sections of a song. Back in the day this was one of the only ways to cut and paste audio without bouncing between synced analogue tape machines. And you could also pitch shift stuff after it was sampled (hello vocal tuning). It was pretty revolutionary at the time.

But apart from the sampling trickery, it was also just a damn fine digital delay and pitch shifter. The pitch shifter was so smooth. It had a great stereo width patch that sounded amazing on vocals (now well-known as the “Phil Collins” vocal sound), and a great simulated tape slap echo sound as well. Both of these are embedded in so many mixes from the 80’s, I would buy one of these just for those two patches. Oh and for the nice modulated guitar patches as well. Some of these sounds are so iconic.

The UAD modelled version of the original hardware certainly lives up to the magic of the original. I dialled-up a few of the presets and immediately had nostalgia goosebumps. It just sounds lovely.

As usual Universal Audio have combined some features from different model variations (like the expanded Chorus module) and added some plugin-only features like tempo-sync, mix controls and an extra VCO. You can also manually change the bit-depth of the unit between 15, 14, 13 and 12 bits.

I’ve now ended up adding this plug-in to all the mixes I’ve been working on lately because it sounds so good.

Is it worth the $299USD asking price? I personally would say yes. In theory you can construct exactly the same sort of effects chains using other digital delay, pitch shifter and chorus plugins, and I’ve been doing that sort of thing for many years anyway. But there’s something about just dialling-up one of the many patches on this thing and it just magically creating the sound I’ve been trying to match for so long. It’s way better than what I’ve been cobbling together so far – it’s smoother and warmer, more solid and just blends beautifully into the mix.

So for me, it’s been on my wish list for so many years, and I’ve never quite captured that same sound, and I just want it. The price does hurt a little – but typically with UAD you’re getting a pretty faithful recreation of vintage hardware that used to cost many thousands of dollars. Plus I’ve paid way more than this over the years just in renting the original hardware unit, so I guess that’s a bit of a reality check.

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